Pirates converting a pitching prospect to an everyday player

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The Pirates’ 2010 second round draft pick is a guy named Stetson Allie.  He’s a pitcher with 100 m.p.h. gas who has a bit of a control problem. And by “a bit” I mean “a massive, horrible control problem.” So the Pirates are trying something:

The Pirates are converting high-priced prospect Stetson Allie from pitcher to hitter, the Tribune-Review has learned … Neal Huntington, the Pirates’ general manager, said the change was made “recently.” No new position was specified, but Allie played third base in high school.

“Stetson was one of the few athletes in each draft to be considered a prospect as a pitcher and as a hitter,” Huntington said Sunday night from Bradenton, Fla. “We believed his highest upside was as a pitcher. We obviously were very pleased to sign him as a pitcher. Since then, we’ve faced some challenges with him as a pitcher.”

Challenges defined: Last season, in 26 innings, he walked 29 and gave up another 20 hits. He also struck out 28 guys in those 26 innings.  In two-thirds of an inning this season, across two games, Allie walked eight dudes. He has been shut down for over a month as a result, with the Pirates trying to remake his delivery. That’s apparently not working, thus the change.

When I think about prospect conversion projects I can’t help but think of another Pirate: John Van Benschoten, who the Pirates drafted in the first round in 2001.  He was an incredible power hitting prospect, leading all of college baseball in home runs during his final year at Kent State. He was also the team’s closer, and the Pirates figured that they’d make him a pitcher in their system. From what I remember at the time, no other team pictured him as a pitcher and if he had fallen below the eighth overall pick that year, someone would have snagged him as an outfielder.

Van Benschoten made the bigs as a pitcher, but probably wouldn’t have in any other organization. He was a disaster in his time in the majors and his career fizzled out due to torn labrums and other such nastiness. In what seemed like a taunt from some alternate universe, Van Benschoten hit a home run in his second big league game.

These are obviously different circumstances. The Pirates organization of 2012 is not the Pirates organization of 2001.  And, unlike, Van Benschoten, Allie was given a chance to do what folks expected him to do before failing and, eventually, conversion. But even if this is the right move, it solidifies the Pirates in my mind as The Team That Converts Early Round Prospects.  And that’s not something you hear about too often.

Another interestingly named player is promoted by the Pirates

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When you promote a player from the minors, the first and foremost consideration is whether or not he can help your ball club. But, assuming that’s taken care of, teams should really, really make it a priority to call up dudes with cool sounding names because it makes life more interesting for the rest of us.

The Pirates are doing that. The other night Dovydas Neverauskas made his big league debut. In addition to being the first Lithuanian born-and-raised player in major league history, it’s a solid, solid name. Now the Pirates are making another promotion: Gift Ngoepe.

Yep, Gift Ngoepe. He’s an infielder from South Africa, making the leap to the bigs due to David Freese‘s hamstring injury. Ngoepe, 27, was batting just .241/.308/.379 through 66 plate appearances this season with Triple-A Indianapolis, his ninth in the minors, so he’s not exactly a prospect. But man, that’s a killer name.

It’s also worth mentioning that Gift and Neverauskas were arrested together in a bar fight last August in Toledo, so there is already a good basis for some bonding here.

Good luck, Gift. Gift Ngoepe. Mr. Ngoepe. G-Ngo. Man, I could do this all day.

Manny Machado teaches us to never give up

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The Rays beat the Orioles last night, but the play of the game belonged to an Oriole defender.

Evan Longoria was batting and he chopped a ball foul down the third base line. At least it started out foul. As we all know, however, it doesn’t matter where the ball starts, it matters where it is when it crosses the bag.

Manny Machado knows this and didn’t give up on the ball despite it starting several feet in foul territory. He watched it come back, stayed with it and threw out Longoria who, unlike Machado, did give up on it, assuming he’d merely get a strike and another hack. Watch:

Longoria would get Machado back, however, fielding a ball Machado smoked to third base in the ninth inning, recording the second to last out of the game.